A Global Classroom: Is it possible? And how does it work?

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Recently, I watched a TED talk on Education. The speaker of this particular talk was Salman Khan, the analyst who created Khan Academy. The talk focused on using videos to reinvent education. In the beginning of his talk, he gives an overview of how this academy came to be. He posted some videos on Youtube explaining problems in algebra. He expected nothing to come of this, but was surprised by the results. People actually started watching these videos and were giving him feedback; they were thanking him for teaching them concepts that were previously confusing to them. From here, he created a virtual classroom, where “students” could view videos on anything from basic math principals of addition and subtraction to harder principals like Calculus. He then asks the question, “How do we take this to the next level?”

Khan Academy is now proposing the idea of a Global Classroom. Khan talks about how teachers in Los Altos School District began using his videos within their classroom lessons. This use of technology is known as a flipped classroom. Traditional classrooms are based on lectures. Students are expected to sit in class, and listen to teachers give 40-80 minute lessons on concepts. They are then given homework and tested on the subject. Despite the scores on these tests, teachers move on to the next lesson. Khan raises the question as to what happens to those students who have not grasped the previous material? Without the proper knowledge of basic foundations, students will continue to struggle throughout the entirety of the class. So, students who were once doing well, are now failing.

A flipped classroom opposes this traditional view of the classroom. In a flipped classroom, students are able to view the lecture online at home. They are able to pause, rewind, and repeat the lesson. Once they have completed the video, they are given activities which test their understanding of the material. If a student is struggling, they cannot yet move on to the next concept. This allow students to work at their own pace. This also allows for more student-teacher interaction within the classroom. Teachers (with this technology by Khan) are able to view their students’ progress. Khan proposes that we arm our teachers with data. They can do one of two things; 1.) work one-on-one with the students who are struggling in the class or, 2.) allow other students, who have grasped the concepts, to tutor those who have not. Not only does this allow for more teacher-student interaction, but more student-student interaction. AND, students from all over the globe can interact with one another as well. Khan refers to this as “humanizing education.”

What Khan suggests would have been very helpful when I was attending high school. I struggled to grasp basic concepts in math courses, and when we were done being tested on one concept, we would immediately move on to another no matter how well students performed. Sometimes I wonder if math had been taught to me in the style of a flipped classroom, would I be a math scholar rather than an English scholar. This begs the question, having we been teaching everything wrong from the beginning? Maybe, if we had taught in this style, would we be performing better on standardized tests? Why don’t we implement these strategies within our schools and our classrooms? Are we too afraid to admit that we have been wrong all along? If this is the case, why should our fear be holding our students back? Do we not want them to succeed?

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